Applied Spatial Ecology Laboratory
Research and Teaching Interests
Invasion Ecology, Landscape Ecology, Watershed Ecology, Modeling Dispersal Mechanisms, Predicting Habitat Suitability. The role of habitat suitability and dispersal potential in limiting the range of an aquatic invasive species.
The range expansion of zebra mussels was initially rapid throughout the Great Lakes region and lower Mississippi basin. The rate of expansion, however, has declined since 1998. Understanding this decline is essential for determining control and prevention efforts for zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species. Two primary determinants of the possible range of any species are habitat suitability and dispersal potential. Our initial prediction of the suitable habitat for zebra mussels in the United States was based on using statistical and GIS techniques and data about the current distribution of zebra mussels in the U.S. Our results differ considerably from previous analyses, suggesting that much of the American West will be uninhabitable to zebra mussels. Our models do predict that the Southeast and some western river systems are at risk to future infestation. We used gravity models and critically examined the historic patterns of infestation to determine the dispersal potential of zebra mussels. Our results suggest that long-distance dispersal events to new regions are unlikely and that most future infestations will occur within the current range of zebra mussels. Even though the probabilities are low, the potential economic and ecological damages caused by zebra mussels suggest that significant effort should be invested in understanding the dispersal pathways and the potential economic impacts to other regions, such as the West and Southeast. These analyses will then inform recommendations about the appropriate levels of societal investment in efforts to prevent the spread of zebra mussels.